Sweden convicts mother of war crimes over minor fighting for ISIL

Lina Ishaq ‘omitted to prevent’ her 12-year-old son from becoming a child soldier in Syria where he died, a court says.

Police stand at Stockholm's district court building
Policemen guard Stockholm district court [File: Anna Ringstrom/Reuters]

A Swedish court has found a Swedish woman guilty of war crimes for failing to prevent her 12-year-old son from becoming a child soldier in Syria, where he was killed in the civil war.

Lina Ishaq, 49, who denied the charges, was sentenced to six years in prison, the Stockholm district court said in a statement on Friday.

Ishaq, a Swede who returned from Syria in 2020, was convicted of “grave violation of international law and grave war crime,” the court said.

“She, in her capacity as protection guarantor, omitted to prevent her son Joan, 12-15 years, from being recruited by unknown accomplices and used as child soldier on behalf of IS in the armed conflict in Syria,” it said, referring to the ISIL (ISIS) armed group.

The boy, born in 2001, died in 2017, the Swedish prosecution authority said, without providing the cause of death.

‘Cult-like’ environment

The woman and her husband had been part of a “cult-like” environment and in April 2013 she brought her son to join his father and an older son in Syria.

The court found that she must have understood that her son was used as a child soldier.

“She has not taken adequate steps to stop this, neither has she wanted to stop it, but his role as a child soldier had been in accordance with her convictions,” the court said.

When she was charged in January, the prosecution authority said it was “the first time charges are being brought in Sweden for the war crime of using a child soldier”.

It also said that from August 2013 and to May of 2016 the boy allegedly took part “in hostilities performed by armed groups, including the terrorist organisation IS”.

About 300 Swedes or Swedish residents, a quarter of whom are women, joined ISIL in Syria and Iraq, mostly in 2013 and 2014, according to the Sapo intelligence service.

Charging returnees

Sweden did not have existing legislation at the time to prosecute people for membership in an armed organisation, so prosecutors instead sought other crimes with which to charge returnees.

Under Swedish law, courts can try people for crimes against international law committed abroad.

According to the United Nations, recruiting and using children under the age of 15 as soldiers is banned under international humanitarian law and recognised as a war crime by the International Criminal Court.

Source: News Agencies